Thursday, December 13

l'Affaire Clemens

*Except for Gagne and Donnelly

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE MITCHELL REPORT.

The Supreme Court rules that escaped slave Dred Scott, is property and cannot be taken away from his owner without due process.
1894 French soldier Alfred Dreyfus is convicted of passing military secrets to the Germans.
1986 Randy “Macho Man” Savage takes the Intercontinental Title from Tito Santana after hitting him with a foreign object (Note: In the last KEYS Jose claimed Tito Santana was part of the Can-Am Connection, not only is that wrong, it makes no sense, as Tito is Mexican. We regret the error.)
2007 Roger Clemens is accused of steroid abuse by Sen. George Mitchell.

Do you see where Jose is going with this? You must. There is injustice in the world. There has always been injustice. Some days, there is more than on others.

Sometimes injustice is driven by racism and greed. Other times it is caused by anti-Semitism. On still other occasions, it is due to an abhorrent lack of instant replay in professional wrestling. Yet today in our country injustice burns a little hotter, stings a little sharper, for in our national pastime, it has happened again. Bu not only has injustice transpired once more, it has taken a more odious form.

The victim of today’s injustice is not a slave, a Jew or even a Mexican. No he is a victim more reviled than even these once loathed classes. The sad soul is a white Christian millionaire. Yes, gasp. Gasp in horror at the evil in the world. And unlike those who have come before him this man, this poor pathetic man, does not even get the dignity of unjust imprisonment, loss of liberty or confiscation of property to illustrate his plight. His punishment is nothing less horrible than being named in a non-binding report to the Commissioner of Baseball that has no legal weight whatsoever and cannot result in any meaningful sanction.

Truly, Jose weeps for Roger Clemens.

Today’s injustice was not caused by bigotry or the lust for glory, but rather by a deviant devotion to empiricism and a madman’s commitment to the notion that overwhelming evidence is indicative of guilt. What would Jefferson say?

Yes, this is the kind of country we have become.

The United States of America is now a place where a man, a great man, a man who stood face to face with Jeff Suppan and almost won, can be openly slandered by a convicted felon, and never given the opportunity during the investigation to refute claims. Or more specifically, where a man who has several times almost made it through the first few innings of critical ALCS games can be given an opportunity to refute accusations, decline that opportunity, and then complain that there has never been an opportunity to dispute the story. If this continues rest assured that the disappearance of habeas corpus is next. Or possibly, before. Jose gets confused.

As you go to bed tonight, filled perhaps with shadenfreude or fahrvergnuegen, Jose want you to think: What if it were you?

What if you had just made tens of millions of dollars for a few below average innings on top of more than $100 million over the course of your career? What if you were regarded by many as the greatest pitcher of all time? Wouldn’t you trade it all away for a clean reputation? Wouldn’t you offer those achievements up like so many Jacoby Ellsburys and Jed Lowries for the Johann Santana of vindication?

No, you probably wouldn’t.

Jose weeps for the nation.

2. Jose is just wondering but did the Mitchell report say anything about Debbie Clemens and steroids? Have you seen her/him? Jose doesn’t want to say that she’s mannish or anything, but he’s heard that when Suzyn Waldman was gushing about Roger’s return to the Bronx, all noted she-he fan A-Rod could say was “Debbie’s back?” “Debbie’s BACK!!!!!!!!!”
If she's not on steroids, the only other possible explaination is a y chromosome

3. Why did Mo have to be in there?

Mo Vaughan did it. He absolutely did it. They even have a check from him. The case against Mo Vaughn is tighter than Jeff Loria on Marlins payday.

There was a time when this would have broken Jose’s heart. That time was 2PM this afternoon. To Jose, Mo always represented what was good about baseball, what he loved about the game. Mo loved baseball, he loved Boston and he loved being a leader in the community. For Christ’s sake, Jose bought his children’s book “Follow Your Dreams” and got it autographed.

And now this. Jose would have preferred that it was anyone from the pre-2004 Series Red Sox. Nomar, Rich Garces, Toby Boreland, anyone but Mo.

Jose supposes he can take some comfort from the fact that evidence indicates that Mo did not try the stuff until the end of his career when he was with the Mets desperately trying resuscitate a deteriorating body ravaged by sore knees and fried dough. There is something less odious, though perhaps more pathetic, about an athlete using drugs to keep a career alive, rather than to go from good to great.

Still, it makes Jose weep. Mo Vaughn was his first baseball hero. Not his first favorite player, Jose was in college by the time Mo won the MVP, but the first player Jose truly saw as heroic. He was noble and decent and committed. And now what is he? A tragic hero, Jose supposes, a good man with a pronounced weakness for strippers and fleeting glory.

I’m Jose Melendez and those are my KEYS TO THE MITCHELL REPORT.

Monday, December 3

Is Santana Claus Coming to Town?


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE.

1. You probably think that Jose has been taking it easy since the Red Sox won the World Series. And why wouldn’t you? He only wrote one entry in the entirety of November.

Yes, it’s true that Jose is looking to ease up on his workload this off-season after absolutely spending himself in the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t staying actively involved in the hot stove season. For instance, Jose has been following the Johann Santana saga with enormous interest.

Jose thinks the Sox are playing the game brilliantly so far in offering a competitive package that will either win the star lefty or force the Yankees to overpay. Jose particularly likes the fact that with Jacoby Ellsbury now part of the deal, the Twins will have to include “another significant piece” in order to get Jon Lester as well. While most speculation has been that the piece would be either reliever Joe Nathan or his bullpen mate Pat Neshek, Jose believes that the media is way off on this one. The most likely extra piece appears to be former White Sox farm hand Norm Martel, who could combine with Santana to reform the legendary tag team Strikeforce. This would of course be followed by an ugly split and Martel starting a career as a male model.

However, the kink in this proposal is that if the Red Sox are prepared to call up Sanata’s previous tag team partner Charlie Zink (formerly Zenk) from the minors, Martel would be an unnecessary addition, as the Red Sox could look forward to having a new “Can-Am Connection” in the rotation.

But what if the Yankees do offer the better deal and manage to snag Santana? The Red Sox best bet then might be to acquire Winchester resident Brutus Beefcake and reunite him with his old tag team partner Bobby “The Hammer” Valentine in order to reform the “Dream Team.”

So don’t think that Jose hasn’t been thinking about the hot stove—he has. He just clearly hasn’t been thinking very hard about it.

2. Santana Claus Is Coming To Town

Jon Lester is out,
Jacoby’s now in,
His groupies will pout,
And we’ll lose Masterson,
Santana Claus is coming to town.

His changeup is great,
His fastball is nice,
We want him to pitch with Beckett and Dice,
Santana Claus is coming to town.

He comes from Venezuela,
Where Chavez reigns supreme,
But Johan will give Yanks more pain,
Than Hugo in his dreams.
Hank said he’d give up,
Both Melky and Hughes,
An offer that still, will probably lose,
Santana Claus is coming to town.
Santana Claus is coming to town.

3. Santana notwithstanding, there are lots of wonderful things going on this off-season. Perhaps most importantly Red Sox starter and KEYS BFF Curt Euro has endorsed Sen. John McCain for president and plans to campaign with the Arizona Senator. This comes shortly after the news that wrestling legend “Nature Boy” Ric Flair has endorsed former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

These bold moves have left other campaigns in a quandary. With elderly yet active professional athletes becoming political king makers in the Republican party, Jose’s sources have reported that competition has grown intense for the endorsement of Carolina Panthers Quarterback Vinny Testaverde and Boxing legend Evander Holyfield.

Meanwhile, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has been aggressively seeking the endorsement of Roger Clemens, citing their numerous similarities:

· They both purport to love Massachusetts yet have done everything possible to make its residents look like jackasses.
· They are both obsessed with earning every last dollar no matter who it hurts.
· They both have large numbers of robotic sons with weird names.
· They are both on Jose’s sh*t list.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE.

Thursday, November 15

The Euphoria is Wearing Off


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE.

1. The euphoria is finally wearing off.

Jose’s blood pressure is down, the adrenalin in his blood has thinned to watery broth and the pleasant fog that has cloaked and soothed him for lo these many months is finally lifting.

Yes, the ecstasy of winning the 2004 World Series has at long last dissipated.

Thank God we won another one. Now Jose can be assured of another three years of low-level elation.

But in all seriousness, Jose is no longer constantly giddy, and the benign sense that all is well with the world is gradually giving way to the melancholy that comes every year at this time as surely as the leaves glide to the ground.

It really is better this way. Ecstasy, it turns out gets boring eventually. (Note: No, it doesn’t.) Pain. Now that’s the ticket. Pain and ennui, ennui and pain, those are the rich loam in which decent writing germinates and blooms.

Strangely enough it was last night, as Jose strolled the streets of Denver, that the melancholy descended. One would imagine that the sight of so much Rockies NL Champion merchandise would start the endorphins flowing, but it was not to be. No he could not even muster the energy to make a bankruptcy joke to a guy he met named Jack Clark. There are lots of good things going on, but none of them could counter the little slip of paper in the breast pocket of his jacket.

The paper was marked 11/14/2005. Exactly two years ago to the day yesterday, how odd. How odd it is that two years after the occasion, Jose would find this little reminder of the last time he had certainty in his life. Without going into what the paper represented (note: no, it was sadly not a lottery ticket), it was the seeming guarantee of a clear path in Jose’s life, it was the phone ringing with his calling at the other end, it was the lead blocker opening that seam for him to sprint though. But soon after that date, too soon, Jose saw his future, then so neatly laid out, disintegrate as surely and as painfully as Andy Yount’s at a graveyard so long ago. Yount’s future was shattered by glass and Jose’s by red tape, different, yet so, so the same.

And then came the uncertainty. Who was Jose? Who was he going to be? It is frightening, this uncertainty. Just ask Alex Rodriguez. He was brave. He chose uncertainty. He dove headfirst into the churn, but then made a horrifying discovery. He didn’t much care for it. It turns out that he did not understand that uncertainty is, well, uncertain. While Rodriguez left the trail clear and true to go off into the brush, he somehow failed to grasp that there might be snakes there. Rodriquez chose the uncertain path confident that it would lead to a certain outcome, but as soon as it turned that first dark corner, he got scared and ran back to the safe embrace of Steinbrenner Inc and their $275 to $300 million arms.

What a shame. What Alex doesn’t understand is that certainty secure and comfortable though it is, is boring. And even worse, it is limiting. Jose lost the certainty of his calling, but after the initial anxiety, he has embraced it. He can do anything; he can be anything. And he will be.

Alex Rodriguez, by contrast, will know exactly who and what he is the moment he signs this deal. He will be a Yankee; he will be a Hall-of-Famer; he will even be the greatest player of all time. But that’s not all. He will also be unloved, forever made to somehow look small by inferior teammates with superior shadows.

It is a good choice, perhaps, for the weak, for the cautious, for poor, lonely Alex, but not for Jose. Jose is made of sterner stuff. Jose welcomes the uncertainty. He embraces the stress, and the anxiety and the… Opportunity?

So let the melancholy come, let it sound smooth and dark like Scottish rock. Let is crash to the earth in sheets. Jose is ready; Jose is intoxicated by the melancholy. And unlike Alex Rodriguez, he is not afraid

2. Congratulations to Kevin Youkilis for winning a gold glove for his errorless season at first.

Now, a lot of you may not know why they give out gold gloves to the best defenders. You probably think that it is symbolism, that because gold is valuable they give it to the best fielders as a way of honoring them. Of course, that doesn’t make any sense. If that were the case they would give them platinum gloves, as platinum is more valuable than gold.

No, what the gold glove is actually about is equity. The original concept of the gold glove was that it would create more parity by burdening the best fielders with snazzy, but painfully heavy and inflexible gloves made literally out of gold. By forcing Willie Mays to play with a gold glove, you could level the playing field between him and say, Pete Incaviglia. Of course, over time, this gave way to the current, metaphorical gold glove, which doesn’t really do the job, because, as everyone knows, metaphors are not very heavy.

This is why Jose is so excited about the presidential candidacy of Ron Paul. Sure Paul is an ultra-libertarian who is convinced that everything would be great if only government did nothing, which is, of course, crazy, but Jose does think he is brining an important issues to the table by calling for a return to the gold standard.

By calling for every gold glove to be made out of actual gold, Paul will return sanity to the gold glove process and fight the absurd defensive inflation that has lead to Derek Jeter winning the award.

Be honest, doesn’t that make a lot more sense than just having so-called “gold gloves” that float freely against foreign currency backed up by nothing?

3. The other big news in Red Sox nation is that Curt Euro has resigned a one year deal with the Red Sox that will pay him $8 million plus as much as five million in incentives tied to performance and his ability to report to camp in shape. In fact, he can get $2 million just for showing up to camp at weight.

If this works, Jose imagines we will see a proliferation of diet plans wherein you give a contractor $2 million and they give it back only if you meet weight targets. In honor of Curt, they’re going to call it the Mouth Speech Diet.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE.

Monday, October 29


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES.

1. It is 2090 already?

Dear God how the time’s gone by. Jose will confess he is still a little surprised to be alive at 114, but modern medicine is pretty amazing stuff. He’s even more surprised to still be working in the same job for the same pay.

Wait… What day is it? What day is it??? You out there, what is the date?

It’s October 29? But of what year?

2007? Then… But how… that would mean… The New York Daily News was wrong? How can that be? We’re talking about the New York Daily News and they assured, they assured us all on October 28, 2004 that the Red Sox wouldn’t win another World Series until 2090, another 86 year drought.

Jose looks forward to the correction.

2. As Jose writes this the players the owners and even the newspaper columnists have already taken up all of the best clichés.

“I think 2004 was for the parents and grandparents who suffered t, Dru, Lhrough eight decades. This is for us and our children and everyone in Red Sox Nation, proving that we could do it again.'' – Tom Werner, Red Sox Chairmen.

“See this is what happens when you win it all under the simple guise of being the best team, absent the melodrama.” Bob Ryan, Boston Globe Columnist

“Now, when history repeats itself, the refrain is one of celebration, not condemnation.” Tony Castrati, Boston Herald Columnist

“If you go to a high school graduation in the year 2026, you will hear a lot of Jacobys, Dustins, Jonathans, and Hidekis when they call the roll.” – Dan Shaughnessy, Local Cynic.

It doesn’t leave many angles for those blessed among us who do not write on deadline. Yes, having the convenience of being able to go into the streets of Boston and celebrate without having to worry about pounding out copy in time for the first edition was a relief, but it left naught but scraps for World Series perspective.

Thankfully, for Jose, there is always Steinbeck.

In The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights, Steinbeck wrote “Somewhere in the world there is defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory.”

This is the true story of the Boston Red Sox. For 86 years we were defeated and defeated and defeated again. We found our defeat in the world and were gravely wounded by it, but we never allowed it to destroy us. Ted Williams was not destroyed by defeat. Carl Yastrzemski was not destroyed by defeat. Johnny Pesky was not destroyed by defeat. Jim Rice was not destroyed by defeat. Bill Buckner, Calvin Schiraldi, maybe they were destroyed by defeat, but if so, they are not us. These fathers of the Red Sox Nation knew defeat and knew it well, but they rose above it, towered above it to become loved, revered made into icons both sacred and profane. We fans loved them no less for their failure to win, saw no less in their brilliance for their lack of the big, shiny trophy. Yes, for generations Red Sox nation triumphed over defeat.

And then came 2004. Victory. Sweet, sweet victory, for which, as General MacArthur reminds us, there is no substitute. But what would victory do to us? Who would we become? Would be made small and mean by victory like a turtle necked shipbuilder? Would we grow smug and self-satisfied, content with nothing but endless affirmation of our own superiority? No. We would triumph over victory just as surely as we triumphed over defeat.

We saw the nobility in the quixotic quest of wounded 2005 squad to defend its championship. And even as the 2006 team crumbled into dust, we rejoiced at the brilliance of David Ortiz, and were grateful to live in this time, in this town, with this team.

And when 2007 arrived, and when we struggled to maintain our 14 ½ game lead, we did not fret and fumble and insist on playing the role of tragic hero. And when we held the lead and clinched the division, we celebrated with a divine silliness rather than self-righteous entitlement. The Idiots were, perhaps, gone to history, but they were not succeeded by fools in cap and gown. If the 2003 team, the last to know truly bitter defeat were cowboys and the 2004 team, the first to know true victory were idiots, then perhaps this 2007 squad were prospectors, content to labor hard day after day, month after month, in the optimistic hope that they would eventually find gold.

And when the pan was shook, and the silt had slid through the little holes and back into the stream of the season all that was left were shiny nuggets of victory. It was not the shallow victory of inherited wealth, of having the good fortune to be born rounding third, but victory won methodically, through persistence, through effort and through grit.

Far from destroying them, defeat made the Red Sox strong and humble, and victory did not make them small and mean, but great and good.

They are our Boston Red Sox, and once more they are the Champions of the World.

3. Poetry has meant a lot to Jose this year, and thus he closes this season where we won with the brutal meter of ruthless consistency, in a final verse.

When Euro took the ball on opening day,
And Boston bowed to Kansas City’s nine,
The pundits screamed and started to inveigh,
Against the Red Sox and their quick decline.

Our team rebounded and soon took the lead
And grabbed the A.L. East about its throat.
And though the Yankees never did concede,
Their competition soon became remote.

The youngsters hit and pitched the veterans too,
Though some might say we failed to dominate,
And placed the blame on Lugo and on Dru,
But Boston’s team would not deny its fate.

With bats, and starting pitching and our pen,

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES.


Sunday, October 28

World Series Game 4: Thus Spake Nietzsche

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. “God is dead.”

Thus spake Nietzsche.

Of course, Jose doesn’t believe that God is dead, he’s something of a Pascal man, determining that the potential benefits of belief are a far better gamble than atheism.

But the Colorado Rockies must be wondering this morning if Nietzsche wasn’t right after all? Because if God is alive, why oh why would the Rockies be down three games to none?

Jose wants to be clear. He is not mocking God. He is not mocking religion. Heck, his parents just went to church two minutes ago. Sure, it’s a Unitarian church so it doesn’t count, but at least they’re going through the motions.

What Jose is mocking is the incredibly foolish and self-indulgent notion that God is the equation changer in baseball games. It is nonsense, and it holds one’s faith up to ridicule and doubt. If one proclaims as Rockies Chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort did that “I believe God sends signs, we're seeing those" or as Team President Keli McGregor told Time that God is "using [The Rockies] in a powerful way," does it not follow inevitably that should the Rockies lose this series one of two things is true: either a) the Rockies have done something displeasing to God or b) if God really does care about baseball games, He is not powerful enough to actually win them?

The way Jose sees it the Rockies have put God in a terribly awkward position, and if Jose were God (note: he is not) he would be really resentful.

This is why God is best left out of baseball. Jose decided long ago after praying for Celtic playoff wins, that athletic victories were too small, too unimportant in a world of suffering to waste valuable prayers on.

We do not need religion in baseball; the intermixing of the two demeans them both. What we need in baseball is what we have—superstition. For decades, forever really, the true faith of baseball has been the soft animism of superstition. When Curt Euro hops over the base lines is he not appealing to some mysterious force in the universe? When Wade Boggs shoved chicken after chicken down his curious gullet was it not a form of prayer?

When Jose crosses his fingers, or kneels on the floor or rocks back and forth or visualizes base hits, is it not an appeal to some troublesome spirit? (Note: Or possible signs of an anxiety disorder?)

That said, the funny thing is that Jose has become a baseball atheist. Out in the world he is a deist, but with his eyes on the ball field, he has come, albeit slowly, to reject the heathen gods of bat and ball. It does not matter if he crosses his fingers. It is irrelevant if Curt Euro steps on a baseline. What matters is having the best players, the best preparation and the strongest minds. Now ritual can play a role in that. Simple repetition can focus the mind and relax the body, but it is vestigial, nothing more than the token remains of a rite that once had meaning.

Perhaps this is the legacy of 2004, the lesson at last learned by Red Sox fans, that one wins or loses not on the strength of one’s superstition, but on the strength of one’s bats and arms, and on the competence of one’s management.

Superstition would demand that Jose now, yell out “UNO!!!!” as he did three years ago, to proclaim, as in the card game, that there is just one win remaining. But he no longer feels the need. What he says and what he does are irrelevant to the outcome. What matters are the men on the field and the minds in the dugout.

UNO! UNO! UNO! UNO! UNO! Of course, Jose did say he tends toward Pascal’s Wager, so let’s not anger the baseball gods, just in case they are real.

2. As the seen shifted to Denver and National League rules, there has been an absolutely appalling amount of silly talk about how the Red Sox should rejigger their defense to keep David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, and Mike Lowell all in the lineup. While the solution last night was to sit Youkilis, that is not particularly creative. We have heard calls for Youk to play right field, for Mike Lowell to play shortstop, and for all Jose knows, for David Ortiz to catch. (Note: David Ortiz has bad knees. He should not catch.)

But no one has come up with the most obvious solution—let Mike Lowell pitch. Jose knows it sounds crazy at first, but this could totally work. The guy’s got a gun for an arm, and… well, that’s about all Jose’s got. Maybe it isn’t such a good idea.

Okay, let’s try a variation on that. Mike Lowell should be on the lineup card as the pitcher and should bat in the nine hole, but Jon Lester should do the actual pitching. How would this work? Disguise.

How hard can it be for Jon Lester to pass for Mike Lowell? They are both cancer survivors, so if Lester just constantly chats up the ump about “When I had cancer,” and remembers not to say it was lymphoma, as Lowell had testicular cancer, that’s a start right there. Then all you need is some modified Groucho glasses that keep the eyebrows but shrinks the nose a little bit, and some makeup to make Lester look 50 years older and presto—Mike Lowell is your pitcher.

Now, Jose knows what some of you are thinking “Hey, that’s cheating!” But come on, it’s not that bad. It’s not like they’re doing something really reprehensible like video taping the game or hitting umpire Chuck Meriwether with a steel chair or anything.

3. As Jose searched desperately for material for this Game 4 KEYS, he naturally looked back to Game 4 of the 2004 World Series for inspiration, and what he found surprised him. Three years ago yesterday, Jose in his second KEY relied heavily on the Transformers, the cartoon about robots that transformed into vehicles, comparing Derek Lowe to Megatron and St. Louis starter Jason Marquis to Bumblebee.

Cut to today and Major League Baseball has finally caught up with Jose, flashing Transformers logos throughout the World Series in efforts to move DVDs of the ho-hum summer blockbuster. The result, naturally enough, is that Jose needs another shtick. As an aspiring hipster Jose cannot keep using Transformers references once they get in vogue any more than he can keep drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon once they start underwriting National Public Radio.

Ergo, Jose will now explain to you how the 2007 Colorado Rockies are exactly like Go-Bots, the Tonka equivalent of Transformers.

Like the Go-Bots, the Rockies entered the series with a lot of hype and to significant excitement, but ultimately they were simply defeated by a vastly superior product.

Also, Jose is almost positive that there was a Go-Bot that changed into a bird called Latroy Hawk-Ins and one that was a three-way changer from a robot to a diet book to a TV maid named Garret Atkins.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Saturday, October 27

World Series Game 3: Free and Hungry

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. Has it really been three years?

Has it really been three years since Jose got down on his knees in a grimy East Cambridge saloon and begged for the minute to arrive?

Has it really been three years since the moon hung blood red in the sky guiding us to a new age like the Star of Bethlehem?

And in just three years can the miraculous become passé? Can the joy of redemption, in just three revolutions of the Earth, become something as ignoble as the arrogance of victory?

That is the charge against us now you know— that the Red Sox have gone in three short years from loveable losers humbled by tragic history to entitled bullies, supercilious and arrogant. Our enemies, both foreign and domestic, charge that we have lost our appreciation for the sacred, for the miraculous, and have descended into the profane assumption that our wealth is our guarantee of success and our virtue.

This would be the natural course of events, Jose supposes. Even the Virgin Mary, with three year old child must have eventually ceased to be amazed by strange monarchs showing up in the night with shiny baubles, with astronomical phenomena following her child around and with angels disturbing her sleep with announcements of this prophecy or that. She must have begun to feel entitled.

Surely, when talking to the other mothers she must have uttered, almost incredulously, “You mean your child never turns your breast milk into wine? Really? I just thought that was a part of motherhood.”

And the other mothers would whisper behind he back or in columns in the Jerusalem Globe, “That Mary used to be so nice when we all just thought she as barren, but now it’s like she expects her kid to multiply loaves and fishes. I honestly think she expects him to a be a king or messiah or something. So she had a miracle baby? Good for her. We were all hoping she’d be able to have one. But she doesn’t need to be all smug about it. I don’t see why she has to go to other births and ask ‘When are the kings showing up with the presents?’ Well, not everyone can be as special as your little Jesus, Mary. Dear God, she’s starting to get on my nerves. And you know what I heard? Just between you and me, I heard Joseph isn’t even the father.”

But that is not who we are three years on, it is not what we have become. Are our pilgrimages to foreign ballparks a sign of arrogance and vice? How is devotion a sin? If for us to go in droves to Colorado is a sin, then so too are Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Muslims making the Hajj, or Jose, as a Jew, driving all the way to Rein’s Deli in Vernon, Connecticut just for some really excellent rugelach.

Our devotion is not a sin, our passion is not self-righteousness.

In the Grand Inquisitor, a story within the Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky tells the story of Christ appearing in the heart of the Inquisition and being brought before the Grand Inquisitor himself. The Inquisitor, in monologue, insists that Christ has it all wrong, that demanding people obey spiritual commandments without attending to their physical needs, bread, for instance, is impossible, that man cannot stand to be free and hungry.

As Red Sox fans, we defy this dark view of man. For generations, we Red Sox fans were free and hungry and it was our choice. We could have changed teams, resumed interest only when victory grew nigh or abandoned baseball altogether, but we did not. We chose, freely and without coercion, to back our team, though they left us hungry and hungry and hungry again. And then three years ago on a crisp October night they gave us bread. They gave it freely, not as a reward for loyalty, or a bribe for further devotion, and our acceptance did not change our passion, our loyalty, our fealty at all.

We continued to keep our faith in the Red Sox and to practice our fandom, our civic religion, just as before. Yes, our stomachs were full with the nourishing protein of victory, but that did not make our faith in our team, our devotion, any less virtuous, pure or sincere.

So onward Red Sox soldiers, eat the bread and drink the wine, for there will again be a time when we are both free and hungry, but that time is not today. Today our stomachs are full, but our faith in the Red Sox remains pure and good.

2. If the Red Sox win tonight, you might as well call Tito Edwin Moses the way he’s dominating Hurdles.

Actually, the funny thing is that with Tito completely and utterly outmanaging Clint Hurdle thus far, it seems eminently reasonable that he could beat him in the next 120 consecutive contests to match the great Olympian’s mark for mastery over the hurdles.

Lynn, Lynn city of sin,
In World Series Games their pitchers don’t win.
Ask for water they give you a gin
And Josh Fogg is gonna take one on the chin.

Or perhaps you prefer a different rhyme.

Trot, trot to Denver,
Trot, trot from Lynn,
When you get to Game 3,
Junk balls don’t win.

That’s right the starting pitcher for the Colorado Rockies in tonight’s critical Game 3 contest is Lynn, Massachusetts native Josh Fogg. Fogg has had a, well, not awful year, putting up an ERA of just under five, but he has picked up two post-season wins thus far.

Still the question we must address is whether a guy from Lynn can actually win in the World Series. History says he can, but probably won’t. The most recent pitcher from Lynn to take a World Series mound was Ken Hill who went 0-1 for the Cleveland Indians while pitching 6.1 innings in two relief appearances in the 1995 World Series.

However, if you want to go back further, Irving Darius “Bump” Hadley went 2-1 for the Yankees with one start in each of the 1936, 1937 and 1939 Fall Classics. His career World Series ERA was however, 4.15 due to a disastrous 1937 start when he yielded 5 earned runs in just 1 1/3 innings.

So what does this tell us about tonight’s pitching matchup?

Well, if you contrast the performance of pitchers from Lynn with Japanese pitchers, it is no contest. Japanese pitchers have never yielded a single run, or even a hit, in World Series competition. But let’s look a bit deeper shall we and do a compare and contrast on Japan and Lynn.

Nationally prominent politicians
Japan: Tokugawa
Lynn: Lyndon LaRouche
Edge: Japan

Major industrial products
Japan: Cars, TVs
Lynn: Jet engines, Marshmallow fluff
Edge: Japan

Founders of religions
Japan: Asaharo Shoko, Aum Shinrikyo
Lynn: Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Science
Edge: Lynn

Feudal systems
Japan: Samurai
Lynn: Lynn city council
Edge: Japan

Lost territory
Japan: Kuril Islands
Lynn: Swampscott
Edge: Lynn

Greatest shame
Japan: World War II
Lynn: Stupid “city of sin” rhyme
Edge: Lynn

Best current Major League starter
Japan: Daisuke Matsuzaka
Lynn: Josh Fogg

And when you add up all the pluses and minuses, it’s really only that last one that matters. Edge: Japan.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Thursday, October 25

World Series Game 2: These Things Jose Believes

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

`. There are two ways to write after an epic drubbing like the 13-1 Red Sox victory we saw last night in Game 1 of the World Series.

The first is the preference of homers, boosters and the weak-willed sorts who are easily swept up in the emotion of a single, profoundly unscientific sample. These are the articles declaring the series all but over by reporters who frolic like pigs in the thick slop of the Red Sox’s brilliance and the Rockies’ languor

The other option is the bailiwick of cynics and contrarians, “haters” in the vernacular of the day. It is to write defiantly, perhaps even arrogantly that the series is decidedly not over, to speak gravely of the 1960 Yankees, or the 2004 Yankees both of whom folded after posting dominant wins. It is to warn with the crusty cynicism (note: or is it narcissism?), of someone who has been around for far too long the series is far from over, and that it may well end in calamity.

It is Jose’s intention to avoid either of these worn and wanting formulae, each as tired as the sitcom episode where the cast goes to Vegas, and blaze his own trail through the thick jungle of rhetoric that surrounds the World Series.

For Jose, the story is not about what happened last night or what will happen as the series progresses, but about what is happening right now. Tonight. St. Josh a Beckett is the only given in this series. He will pitch well; it is as close to certain as can be that the Red Sox will win games that he starts. But he is not pitching tonight.

What about tonight?

What about it?

Jose has his own dreadful cliché for this evening. Tonight is the classic battle of youth and power versus experience and control as fireballer Ubaldo Jimenez pitches against born again finesse pitcher Curt Euro.

Who will Ubaldo Jimenez be tonight? Will he be Bret Saberhagen in 1985 or Josh Beckett in 2003, stunning baseball with his haughty brilliance? Or will he be Jeff Francis last night, a young man clearly in over his head?

And what about Curt Euro? Will he be the grizzled 1991 Jack Morris, throwing World Series gems well into his dotage or the tired 1992 Jack Morris, getting shelled in the World Series where he had thrived so recently?

The answer is that we don’t know. We have no idea. We can speculate and prognosticate, ruminate and marinate, but we do not know. We cannot know.

And it is at times like these, times of great uncertainty, that people do well to retreat to the calming confines of those few things we do know to be true. For some it is a faith in God, for others a belief in the power of love and for others still it is the certainty that no hitter is looking curve on a 3-2 count.

Here is what Jose knows to be true.

Jose knows that the beer will be cold and his house will be warm. He knows that Tim McCarver will say many foolish things. He knows that someone in spoken or written word will rhyme Fox with Rox or Sox. He knows that Dustin Pedroia will swing big and swing hard. He knows that Jacoby Ellsbury will run fast. He knows that Colorado pitchers fear Manny and Papi.

He knows that regardless of whether his arm is ready, Curt Euro’s mind will be sending current across synapses and every electron will contain some little, critical piece of data about how to get batters out.

These things Jose does not believe. These things, he knows.

2. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly today announced his intention to organize a boycott of the 2007 World Series, on the grounds that it is part of what the fiery right winger calls “the War on Christmas.”

“This is disgraceful; this is absurd. This is a classic example of the fanatics on the cultural left trying to push their secular agenda on the county,” fumed O’Reilly without explaining what he was talking about.

“You want me to explain myself? Fine we’ll take it right into the no spin zone. Matt Holliday. That’s the problem. Why won’t the liberals and the secularists just call him Matt Christmas? You know why? Because they want to take religion out of American life. If using a baseball player’s name to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, even if his name has nothing to do with Jesus is banned by the secular left, then any tradition can come under attack, dropping the ball at New Year’s, singing the national anthem at baseball game, talking about what you’d like to do to female employees with a loofah, anything.”

O’Reilly went on to express his disgust that even on a highly Christian team such as the Rockies, players felt pressured by Major League Baseball to conceal symbols of their faith.

In bolstering his argument, O’Reilly pointed to Washington Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman being forced to play under the name “Cristian. Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Shinto, Wiccan, Scientologist, Agnostic or Atheist Guzman, and the Nationals’ Jesus Colome being required to play under the name, Deity of Your Choice Colome.

Sane people were not available for comment.

3. Different people root for the Red Sox for different reasons it turns out. Some people, most people, root for them because they love the Red Sox. But that is not the only reason. Others, such as Rudy Giuliani, the renowned Yankee fan, has decided to root for the Red Sox in an effort to pick up a few more votes in New Hampshire. Still others root because of the possible unintended consequences of a Red Sox win. For instance, Jose’s friend Mark, a Japan scholar who travels frequently to Tokyo, is rooting for the Red Sox because he believes that a World Series Championship for Mr. Matsu could lead to a direct Boston to Narita flight.

This got Jose thinking: What other reasons might unconventional fans be pulling for the Old Towne Team?

· Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Atheists: Rooting for the Red Sox because the defeat of aggressively Christian Colorado Rockies might prove there is no God.
· The Burmese Military Junta: Because when blood continues to flow crimson and ankle deep in the streets of Rangoon, they can claim it is just tribute to the Red hosiery of the World Champions. (Note: In all seriousness, screw those guys.)
· The Denver Broncos: If the Rockies go down, every one in Colorado will have to start paying attention again to awful Broncos team.
· Woody Paige Denver columnist: Already has a book written called “The Curse of Dante Bichette” which just takes Dan Shaughnessy’s curse book and substitutes Bichette for Ruth.
· Mork from Ork: Lives in Colorado, feels like Orser would be more interested in reaction of humans to losing, than winning.

See, there are lots of reasons to root for the Red Sox. For Jose it’s that they give meaning to an otherwise empty existence.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Wednesday, October 24

World Series Game 1: Bending Time and Space

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

Clink. The first cube of ice hits the bottom of the glass.

Clonk. The second cube ricochets off the first and settles into an uneasy tower of frozen water, braced only by the invisible arc of silicon fused solid.

Tunk…tunk…tunk… The Scotch pours over the ice in rhythmic spurts, one then two fingers deep

Tunk… tunk… Better make it three.

They call alcohol liquid courage for a reason. Not so much because it increases one’s bravery, but because it eases one’s fear, and fear is the enemy of performance. The stakes are high now, frighteningly high, and there is little choice but to deliver. Three years ago, Jose did this without the sweet kiss of alcohol, his skin ravaged by infection and antibiotics the only thing standing between him and disaster. He worked clean in 2004, having to rely on the courage in his soul, rather than the courage in the glass to get him through four games of World Series tension.

Not this year. This year he is healthy. This year he is strong. The first sip burns, burns as it always does, burns with anticipation, burns with exhilaration. The second is easier, so much easier. And then come the words.

Jose is jealous. He is wildly, passionately jealous of Josh Beckett, of St. Josh a Beckett. Beckett will walk on to the Fenway mound at just a bit passed 8:30 this evening calm as can be yet with a frightening intensity. His emotions cooled, not by the cracked ice in a glass entwining with intoxicating liquors, but by the ice in his heart, in his arteries in his veins, intoxicated by the ecstasy of 37,000 madmen who want nothing save to bask in his brilliance.

Josh Beckett, on this good evening, is who Jose wants to be. He is who you want to be as well—Confident, assured and completely and utterly in control of his destiny. There are stories in fiction, in comics, in movies of men who can control molecules, who can shape the very reality around them to conform to their needs and their demands. Those men are fictional but their power is not.

Perhaps it does not take the comical form of an old tire morphing into an ice cream cone, but the power is real. With each pitch Josh Beckett can stop time; he can bend space. You know it is possible because you have seen it before. You saw it in 1999, when a sore and broken Pedro Martinez defied the cruel truth of a devastated shoulder, to make his own reality. You saw it in 2004, when a hobbled Curt Euro demanded that his physical limitations yield to his indomitable will. And you will see it tonight. No, Josh Beckett will not have to overcome a fraying shoulder or an ankle torn asunder, but he will defy reality. He will defy that most basic law of the universe that says simply, “no one can be that good.”

But he is. He is that good.

And for today, and perhaps only today, so is Jose, so are you, so are we. Jose sets down the glass and lets the ice melt slowly in its crystal cage, until the amber scotch grows gradually warmer, even as Jose’s gaze grows gradually colder.

And the words continue to come. They come quickly like a fastball; sentences veer off into new ideas like a curve, and all fear drops out of sight like a splitter to the dirt.

Jose does not need liquid courage, not tonight. He has Josh Beckett on the mound, and that is courage enough for anyone.

2. From time to time, Jose likes to inject a bit of political commentary into his KEYS, to use the bully pulpit of his little corner of the Web to advocate for causes near and dear to America’s powerful Japanese-German-Jewish-Unitarian lobby. This is not one of those times.

That said, Jose does feel that it is an imperative for him to take a few moments on this historic occasion to comment on the war. He does this with nothing but the deepest respect and gratitude for our fighting men and women, but duty calls and Jose must respond.

It has become the tritest of jokes to say “If we don’t the terrorist have won.” Jose will not dishonor himself by using that line. He will however, point out that if you put an “I” before “Rockies” you get the Irockies, or in apple speak iRockies.

Sun Tzu urged us to know our enemy, and thus it is incumbent upon us to understand the nature of this adversary, these iRockies on the baseball field and understand how they differ from the Iraqis in the desert.
  • Everyone knows exactly why we’re playing the iRockies. They won the National League, we have to play them; it’s really straightforward. By contrast, it is not totally clear why we had to go to war with the Iraqis. If we applied the same logic we used in the war with the World Series. We would be getting ready to go play the Washington Nationals, because they seem like a more desirable opponent, and as we speak, Theo Epstein would be making speeches connecting the Nationals to Colorado’s 2-1 series win over Boston this summer, and discussing how Dmitri Young could not be allowed to threaten our championship ambitions.

  • We know that the iRockies, the whole of the iRockies are our opponents. No one on that team is trying to help us, there are no iRocky factions trying to undermine other parts of the team. The pitchers aren’t trying to seize control over the batters or face versa. This is helpful.

  • The iRockies definitely want us there. They want us to come to Colorado and bring economic prosperity and liberation from watching the pathetic Denver Broncos. The Iraqis? Not as clear.

  • Unlike the Iraqis, people close to the iRockies don’t seem to have cared about their situation at all until recently. If, before the war, you asked any Iraqi out of distance of the secret police, you can bet he had an opinion about how his country was governed. If you asked an iRocky fan about the management of the iRockies last April, he probably didn’t have a clue.

  • Jose will bet that almost every single person in Baghdad can name, three, ten even twenty five Iraqis. Do you think most people in Denver can name three iRockies?

  • The map to victory against the iRockies is clear—score more runs. Fighting against Iraqi insurgents, not so much. Also, regardless of whether a surge helps against the Iraqis, we definitely cannot add more players in the battle against the iRockies.

Coming up tomorrow: How fighting the Taliban is like pitching to Todd Helton. (Note: Beards are involved.) Jose would add that he really doesn’t like the Taliban. He thinks it is terrible that they made all of the women cover themselves with former Sox pitcher and excellent bowler John Burkett. They weren’t even allowed to go outside without a Burkett on.

3. Speaking of the Rockies, Jose doesn’t get the name. He’s been going through famous people named Rocky left and right and he can’t find anyone from Colorado.

Rocky Marciano was from Brockton. Rocky Graziano was born in New York and was played in the movies by Paul Newman who was born in Cleveland. Rocky Balboa was Philly through and through. Rocky the Flying Squirrel? Frostbite Falls Minnesota. Rocky Johnson is from Nova Scotia, and his son Rocky Maivia, a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. the Rock grew up all over, but not in Colorado. Rocky Colavito played for six teams, none of whom was in Colorado. Rocky Anderson, the Mayor of Salt Lake City, is kind of close to Colorado, but not nearly close enough. Rocky the Bull is the mascot of the University of South Florida, which is a little far away.

This leaves us, Jose supposes, with mountains, which’ let’s be honest, is a little absurd. Would we ever call a baseball team here the Appalachians? Would we break it down and have it be the Boston Berkshires? No, of course not. That would be stupid. Now maybe, you could argue that the mountains, while part of New England, are not really part of Boston. Fair enough, but would you want our club named for any other feature of our city? Would the Boston Harbors be a good name? The Boston Commons? The Boston Bars close at 2AM? No, of course not.

Instead we chose a simple, likeable mascot in the form of hosiery of an incredibly flamboyant hue. What’s not to like? So Jose suggests that if the Colorado baseball team wants to be taken seriously, they change their ridiculous name and choose something that reflects the clothing of their cowboy ethos, perhaps the Colorado Brown Chaps. Chaps, also has the benefit of being an acronym for Cow Herd Appraisal Performance Software, which would make a great sponsor for the team every time the National Western Stock Show comes to town.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Sunday, October 21

ALCS Game 7: The Ballad of East and West (brook)

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. The Ballad of East and West(brook) with apologies to Rudyard Kipling

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till DiceK meets Jake Westbrook and they both strive to defeat,
The other, East vs. Westbrook, and the Indians ‘gainst the Sox,
When these two men stand face to face, you’ll doubt that Cleveland Rocks.

The Dice man comes from far Japan, to Boston he was sent,
To ship a hefty sack of gold back to the Orient.
He came here just to be a man, just one of 25,
But now his shining golden arm’s what keep’s them all alive.

We know of epic battles that he has fought in his past,
Of innings one through seventeen he pitched from first to last,
And when 250 times he swiftly hurled the ball,
And led his school to victory, and made the whole East call,

His name as blessed miracle, as hero of Japan,
And from that moment Daisuke was more than just a man.
He blossomed as a symbol, like a star in yonder East,
And stood before the media as if to feed the beast.

And then he pitched for Seibu, was a Lion as it were,
But Japanese he still remained, and thus was quite demure.
He then pitched for his country, gainst the best from in The Show,
And won support from legends past like Sadaharu Oh.

He won the baseball classic that was played against the world,
And had himself named MVP, an honor that unfurled,
The eyes of men in Boston, in the Athens of the West,
Who thought this Matsuzaka was a man who they’d invest,

A fortune in, and buy the rights to bring him to their team,
And watch him rise up to the top like sweet and fatty cream.
They won the bid and brought the eastern hero to their park,
And signs in Japanese, showed up at Popeye’s after dark,

And restaurant reviews in Japanese were all the rage,
As merchants in the Fenway thought that this might help assuage,
The fears of hungry Easterners, who sought something to eat,
And happened by their restaurant while walking down the street.

This, DiceK pitched and often well, for our own Boston squad.
And yet, this eastern hero was not like unto a God.
He sometimes pitched like Pedro pulling strings from in his glove,
But other times, was just a rook, whom umpires gave no love,

The strike zone wasn’t big enough, the baseball not quite right,
And in the playoffs he has had some frustrating nights.
But now the hombre from the East will stride upon the mound
For seventh game, and hear the cheers that signal his renown.

And after he has pitched an inning, that goes one-two-three
He’ll walk away from yonder mound, and then he’ll surely see,
A man of West (brook) coming to the hill for Cleveland’s nine,
A man who’ll look towards heaven hoping he’ll receive a sign,

That in this clash of East and West, his culture can endure,
That he can pitch this evening without yielding a high score,
That fellowship that’s Christian can replace a tired arm,
And that his God, while he is pitching, can save him from harm.

But God, won’t intervene, he’ll find, in this ALCS,
Since God is great he’s got some bigger things he must address.
He doesn’t intervene to throw a strike or else a ball.
Upon his own two feet this man Jake will stand or fall.

He’ll look into his catcher’s eyes and pray his sinker sinks,
“For if it stays up in the zone, I’m surely doomed,” he thinks,
But just the fact that he had scored a win back in Game 3,
In no way guarantees that he again a hero be,

As Westbrook struggles with each pitch, Papi finds one he likes,
While over on the other side, DiceK throws naught but strikes.
And Westbrook gives up hits and hits and each run after run,
While DiceK’s getting bigger in the Land of Rising Sun.

With every pitch with every strike, with every single out,
The East is getting stronger while West (brook) is losing clout.
And in the land of Boston where the East collides with West,
There’s little doubt today concerning which one is the best.

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till DiceK meets Jakes Westbrook and they both strive to defeat
The other, East vs. Westbrook, and the Indians ‘gainst the Sox
When these two men stand face to face, you’ll doubt that Cleveland Rocks.

2. Game 7.

Game 7.

Game 7.

There’s something magic about the number 7 isn’t there? They could end series with Game 9, a fine and honorable baseball number. Hell, they used to end series at Game 9, and yet 7 is the number. Perhaps it’s the certain mysticism that goes along with it. There are seven wonders of the world, seven seas (note: except not really), seven is the most common roll on a pair of six sided die, and it’s the number of points on a sheriff’s star. It’s also Jose’s age when he first went to a Red Sox game.

But as much significance as that perfect prime number has for us Westerners, perhaps it has just a little more for the men of the East.

Bushido, the Japanese way of the warrior, has exactly seven principles. And while Jose is not much for ancient myths, or feudalism for that matter, Jose cannot help but believe, that if Daisuke can follow the seven virtues of Bushido tonight he cannot, he will not be defeated.

1. Gi: The right decision, taken with equanimity, the right attitude, the truth. When we must die, we must die. Rectitude.
• Choose your pitches wisely. Throw what must be thrown, and if is hit, so be it. Do not shy away from the fastball because Kenny Lofton gets lucky. Do not shy away from the curve because the ump is blind.

2. Yu: Bravery tinged with heroism.
• Trust in your breaking pitches. Have faith that even though they may not be hard or cruel, merely having the courage to throw to in the mid 80s to men of iron, is proof of bravery.

3. Jin: Universal love, benevolence toward mankind; compassion.
• Juniper flavored liquors are delicious and taste good with just a little vermouth, or if of lower quality, tonic water. Quaffed in large enough concentrations, this spirit leads to benevolence toward mankind. Or it makes one ornery. It depends. Anyway, when everyone else is doing shots of Jack, you know what to do,

4. Rei: Right action--a most essential quality, courtesy.
• When Kenny Lofton steps out of the box yet again. Bow humbly to him, bow deep and dignified. Then plant one in his ear.

5. Makoto: Utter sincerity; truthfulness.
• If you are out of gas, admit that you are out of gas. If Pedro had had more Makoto four years ago and told Grady to bleep himself history would be different.

ó. Melyo: Honor and glory.
• The glory is yours for the taking. Look at DJ Dru. All season, he struggled and strived, yet failed and flailed, and last night, with one magnificent swing all was forgotten and forgiven. You have performed well this season; you have pitched with honor, but the glory? The glory is yours to seize.

7. Chugo: Devotion, loyalty.

• Tito has been loyal to you, as he has been loyal to DJ Dru and Julio Lugo, and as he was loyal to Mark Bellhorn and Johnny Damon before them, and they have rewarded his loyalty with performance. Loyalty is, it must be, a two way street, reward Tito’s loyalty with your own.

Tonight, Daisuke Matsuzaka is a samurai. If he were a boxer or a wrestler, he would enter on a horse, clad in the venerable armor of old Japan. But he is not, he shall not enter from the bullpen on a sacred steed, but on his own two feet, protected by naught but the sacred B on his cap and a right arm more magnificent than Masamune’s steel.

And thus, I predict, humbly and in the first person, that the Red Sox will win.

3. Musical Interlude

Turning Japanese

I've got a pitcher his name is Dice,
We eat potatoes; he’s fueled by rice
I saw him staring at his locker—Here’s advice.

Oh mix your pitches, don’t just throw speed.
Don’t over nibble. Here’s what we need.
Five innings and a one run lead

I've got a pitcher, I've got a pitcher
He’s worth a hundred million out on the mound
I want a catcher to call for curveballs
So all the batters will hit balls on the ground.

We’ve got him pitching high and pitching low
and pitching fast and pitching a slow and

Pitching Japanese
DiceK is pitching Japanese
I really think so
Pitching Japanese
DiceK is pitching Japanese
Pitching Japanese
DiceK is pitching Japanese
I really think so
Pitching Japanese
DiceK is pitching Japanese
I really think so

I've got a pitcher, I’ve got a pitcher
He threw a million pitches once in a game
I want Francona to use that pitcher, so he can get himself some U.S. acclaim.
You've got him throwing fastballs throwing curves
And throwing splitters, throwing slurves and

Pitching Japanese
DiceK is pitching Japanese
I really think so
Pitching Japanese
DiceK is pitching Japanese
Pitching Japanese
DiceK is pitching Japanese
I really think so
Pitching Japanese
DiceK is pitching Japanese
I really think so

No hits, no walks, no runs, no bases
No balks, no bags no you, keep it inside the park
Everyone at bat is Mario Mendoza
Then we get to Papelbon the Closah

And DiceK’s Pitching Japanese
DiceK is pitching Japanese
I really think so
Pitching Japanese
DiceK is pitching Japanese
Pitching Japanese
DiceK is pitching Japanese
I really think so
Pitching Japanese
DiceK is pitching Japanese
I really think so

I’m Jose Melendez and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Saturday, October 20

ALCS Game 6: Open Letter From a Dirty Bastard

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. An Open Letter to Curt Euro

Dear Curt,

You began today’s Sons of Sam Horn game thread by saying “Flip it on Jose, you dirty bastard. Keys and mojo as if your life depends on it.”

First of all flip is more of a west coast thing. People there asking for a U-Turn will say “Flip a U-Turn,” where was we East Coast folks will say “Pop a U-Turn.” Except we pronounce “U-Turn” “YEW-WEE.”

Second, Jose is not a bastard. His parents were definitely married when he was conceived. He is also not dirty. His hygiene isn’t perfect, but it’s not like he is Kevin Millar or something.

Long story short, you have made Jose feel bad. Jose had listed all of the nice things he was going to do for you now that we are best pals, and you go and call him a dirty bastard? Well, there goes the KEYS thong for Shonda at Christmas time, or as we Unitarians of Jewish extraction call it, the Winter Solstice with something about the Maccabees thrown in and a Christmas tree because they’re kind of fun. (Note: Maccabees would be a good name for a chain of Jewish delis in the Applebee’s style. They could serve fun drinks and really low quality latkes.)

But here’s the thing. You can make it up to Jose. You can.

First of all, win the game. That’s the easy part. The other part will help with the winning. Jose has created personalized, life-affirming inspirational messages for each and every member of the active roster. Jose is writing them, all you need to do is go to Michael’s or some craft store and get some glue and sparkles and calligraphy markers so that you can make them look nice for everyone.

Don’t act like you don’t have time. Beckett would do it. This is important. We’ll start with the starting line up and work backwards.

Dustin Pedroia: Everyone makes fun of you because you are short, but that’s okay. After all, people made fun of Napoleon for being short too, and look what he did. He conquered most of Europe at the cost of hundreds of more than a million lives.

Wow, you’d better get cracking if you want to catch up. Start with Fausto Carmona.

Kevin Youkilis: With Kapler and Stern gone, you are now left to do the work of three Jews. You’re not even close to a Minyan. Also, you know that in the bible, Sampson got his strength from the long hair on his head, not on his beard right?

David Ortiz: Carry on

Manny Ramirez: You get a huge amount of crap in the media for saying what we all know is true. If the Red Sox lose the world will not, in fact, end. And you deserve credit for recognizing that as much as we love baseball in this town, and as deeply as we care, it really is not the end of the world. Unless we lose the game because the spaceship has beamed you up to take you back to your home planet. Then there’s a good chance that it is the end of the world.

Mike Lowell: A lot of people say you’re the oldest looking 33 year-old they’ve ever seen. And while this may be true now, rest assured that this is only until Lindsay Lohan turns 33.

DJ Dru: DJ, you have taken a bigger beating in this town than perhaps any non-criminal player Jose can remember since Jack Clark. If Jose can offer some friendly advice, try not to go in to bankruptcy this off-season. It wouldn’t look good.

Jason Varitek: Everyone on earth thinks that the “C” on your chest is because you’re the team captain, or maybe, if they’re not hockey fans, they think it stands for catcher. Only Jose knows that it is really a sign of your devotion to the programming language “C.” Thank God, you’re not devoted to Pascal, because that would look really silly on the front of a jersey. (Note: Alternative theory. Varitek wanted the speed of light to be his jersey number but 299,792,458 m/s didn’t fit.)

Jacoby Ellsbury: Try not to ever get fat, because if you do, people will start calling you the Ellsbury Dough Boy.

Julio Lugo: Jose just learned that your first name in Spanish means “July” and that your last name is that of a city in Galicia, Spain, famous for its 3rd century walls. Jose would feel better right now if you would change your name to Octubre Boston. Thanks.

Rococo Crisp: Jose knows that it must be tough being benched for a big game, but look on the bright side, you will have a chance to get to know Eric Hinske a lot better.

Alex Cora: You are the utility man right? So can Jose talk to you about his electric bill?

Eric Hinske: You’re a weird dude. You haven’t played that much this season and yet you have two of Jose’s absolute favorite plays of the year, the diving catch and the Tito Santana style flying forearm to Jorge Posada’s head. If you get anywhere near this game tonight, it had better involve decapitating Kenny Lofton and then making a diving catch of his head with arm outstretched.

Bobby Kielty and Doug Mirabelli: Jose would like to say something nice about both of you, but neither of you wears batting gloves, and you know what the television adds say “no glove, no love.”

Hideki Okajima: You know how you don’t look at the plate when you’re pitching and it works really well? Do you do that in other aspects of your life? Do you find sex is better with your eyes closed? Do you close them when listening to music? Do you look away when your wife is arguing with you? Jose is just asking because he loves your no-look motion so much that it inspired him to try looking the other way while driving. It didn’t work out so well.

Jonathan Papelbon: Everyone says you are a crazy bastard, but Jose just doesn’t see it. Really, who hasn’t done Riverdance in Fenway in spandex?

Mike Timlin: Jose knows you love the cammo, so he was thinking: Would MLB let you use a camouflage glove? It would help you hide the ball right? Or maybe it would have to be white with red stitching to do that?

Eric Gagne, Jon Lester, Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen: Just lay down a tight drum groove for the game. That’s it nothing else. Jose wants nothing from you in this game but your best impersonations of Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa or if you have to go rock, John Bonham. If absolutely necessary Lester can learn to play bass, but nothing else.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, Josh Beckett: You guys are all starters, so with the possible exception of Wakefield there is little chance that any of you see action tonight. Still, on the off chance that one of you does have to pitch, Jose wants you to remember that pitching in relief is only different from starting in the same way that doing dishes is different from cooking dinner. It’s still part of the same evening, but instead of getting to experiment and improvise, you spend your time cleaning up after someone else’s mess.

And then there’s you Curt Euro, our starter for the evening. What possible advice, what words of wisdom, could Jose give you? Well, none. But he can quote words of wisdom from a dead German, in this case, Bertold Brecht in his play The Caucasian Chalk Circle

All mankind should love each other,
But when visiting your brother,
Take an axe and hold it fast,
Not in theory, but in practice,
Miracles are wrought with axes,
And the days of miracles are not past.

Hear that Curt? The days of miracles are not past, Kevin Millar is right, the comeback from three to one down can happen, but only, only if you bring what you need to chop down the Indians.

Your pal,


P.S. I predict the Red Sox will win tonight. Just need to work that first person singular magic.

2. Correction: In the KEYS for Game 2 of the ALCS, Jose incorrectly asserted that Cleveland Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona had sold his soul to the devil in return for superior pitching skills. This is not true and KEYS TO THE GAME would like to apologize for the error.

While a transaction did occur, it was not a direct sale as suggested. Rather the devil purchased an options contract on Fausto’s soul, allowing him to acquire the soul at a future date for an agreed upon price.

However, noted options trader and Red Sox owner John W. Henry is reported to have purchased the option on Fausto’s soul and is expected to exercise it at approximately 8:20 PM this evening.

Again, we regret the error.

3.The good news on Thursday night was that the Red Sox won to bring the series back to Boston. The bad news is that Jose’s mother got a flat tire. The good news is that the tire was replaced for free by the good people at Firestone. The bad news is that since the Red Sox won with a flat tire, we need to stick with it. So yadda, yadda, yadda. Jose is off to slash his mom’s tire.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Thursday, October 18

Like a Locker Room Speech by Marcel Marceau

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. It is quiet here. It is painfully, relentlessly quiet. Denuded of the cracks and cheers the air is empty of vibration. All that remains to tickle the tympanic membranes, are those other sounds, the sounds so subtle, so remote, that they do not even exist to a man who is free from anything but the most monastic solitude. The heart thumps its regular rhythm, a metronome, infinite and plodding. Beneath the percussion is the slow gargle of blood tickling arteries and veins on its journey through the French horn of the circulatory system. And then there is the buzz. Like the whir of fluorescent light or the flapping of a mosquito’s wings, the buzz annoys, high and harsh, even as it calms by providing evidence of one’s continued existence.

Jose heard these sounds described once in a radio story about a composer who wrote a piece of music consisting entirely of rests. The composer went deep into a subterranean isolation chamber to hear true silence, the silence that burns like acid in one’s ears, and there, alone, he heard these sounds.

But Jose needs no subterranean cavern, no layer of the Morlocks, to succumb to this bitter silence any more than he needs an orchestra at rest. To him, silence is nothing more than the absence of baseball. And on the treacherous Wednesday off day Jose was left to its cruel neglect, given a taste of what shall come should the Red Sox lose again to Cleveland.

Simon and Garfunkel were wrong; silence does not “like a cancer grow.” Silence is not some foreign growth crushing organs with sheer bulk. It is more insidious than that. Silence like a virus spreads. It infiltrates just a few cells at first, then turns those cells into breeding grounds for its minions of quiet and despair. With each off day, the silence of the off-season penetrates more deeply, overwhelms more perniciously until there is naught but void.

But Jose will not yield to the silence. He will not bow to the bitch goddess inevitability; the silence cannot yet come. He will not allow it.

Sometimes even those sworn to silence, those who’s very being is defined by the absence of sound, must break their vows, must deny their essence to stave off the abyss. In 1976, Marcel Marceau, a man more famous for silence than any other, uttered the lone word “non” in Mel Brooks’ “Silent Movie.” More recently, Darryl and Darryl, the silent woodsman in the television program Newhart, are, in the series finale, so infuriated by the grating chatter of their wives that they scream their first word in the series “QUIET!!!” And in comic books, even the Inhuman King, called Black Bolt, who dares not speak because his voice can level cities, will utter a word when the situation is so dire that the silence must be shattered.

Jose cannot fall back upon the shock of the spoken word to rend the silence. Jose is verbose, and a word spoken would have no impact among the hundreds of thousands he has written.

All Jose has to tear apart the shroud of void, is one word, one slender syllable, that can have the impact of the mime aloud, or the mute come to speak. The day is dark, the silence is encroaching and the time for action has come.

I predict the Red Sox will win tonight.

2. The epic poems were nice, perhaps they were even actually epic, but they haven’t brought the Red Sox any wins, so away with them.

Perhaps, as Granny Melendez often suggests and Jose’s brother Sam confirms, these KEYS have been simply too long to read. So to hell with the verses as long as Dustin Pedroia’s swing and as plodding as Doug Mirabelli. Those days are gone. Rather than offering you one grand epic, Jose will offer a few short distinct poems, some merry little couplets for Game 5.

Roses are red, violets are blue,
Thank God we’re not starting D. Jonathan Dru.

Roses are red, dead ones are black,
Where is Millar? Let’s break out the Jack.

Marigold’s orange, lilies are white,
Why isn’t Ellsbury, playing in right?

Begonias are red, or their white or pink,
Seriously guys, you should start with a drink.

Grass it is green, bark it is brown,
You will come back, from three to one down.

Outfield is green, in, a burnt umber,
The bats will arise from their postseason slumber.

Poppies are red, they’re used to make smack,
It’s time for Pedroia to show us some sack.

Maples have leaves, in winter they’re bare,
Do you really think Manny just doesn’t care?

Pine trees have needles, oak trees have leaves
We need for our shortstop to pull up his sleeves.

Daises are red, when slathered in paint
Tonight young Josh Beckett will prove he’s a saint.

Hyacinth’s blue, except when it’s not,
Like back in ’04, let’s go drink a shot.

3. The Cleveland Indians’ Casey Blake was sharply critical of Manny Ramirez for celebrating by stretching his arms toward the sky after hitting a home run to pull the Red Sox within four runs in Game 4.

What a jackass. Does Casey Blake not recognize not only step 2, but also step 11 of the yoga movement the Sun Salutation? Or maybe he does recognize it and he just hates the sun. Does he know that the sun is where we get light and heat from? Does he know that plants need it for photosynthesis? It’s like, really, really important. And there he is just pissing all over the sun, like he’s so much better than it.

All, Manny does is give a friendly greeting to Ra or Apollo if you prefer, and Casey Blake gets all self-righteous.

Blake went on to say that Manny’s sun salutation was “so opposite of how I am.” So how is he exactly? Jose’s supposes that means that rather than offering a salutation to the sun, he would say so long to it after hitting a home run. Would he just say but and storm out the door? Would he sit down and have a long talk with the sun? Nah, he seems like the sort of guy who would send a text message to the sun. “SRY I CANT SEE U. KC.”

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Tuesday, October 16

ALCS Game 3: Quoth the Byrdman

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. The Byrdman

Once upon a Tuesday night, Coco batted left not right,
Manny took a three two pitch again, it was ball four,
Tito signaled starting runners, like heroes of long gone summers,
Cleveland fans applauded drummers, drummers banging from the bleacher’s core.
“Tis just that guy” Wedge muttered, “banging from the bleacher’s core -
Only this, and nothing more.”

Ah, just like a tasty brew, Wedge remembered ‘92
When his career went askew, as he walked out the door
Sent from Boston then in sorrow; - going to Denver tomorrow
Left for dead just like Barbaro – done, defeated like Al Gore -
For his dreams they lay in shatters just like those of Albert Gore
‘Til he came to now, Game Four.

And his soul remained uncertain whether he should call the curtain
Curtain call – for starters he’d already used before;
Pitcher who had earned a beating should he pitch Game Four repeating
Games that were not worth repeating – times where he had lost the war
C.C.’s wildness repeating as when he had lost the war -
“Should I use him in Game Four?”

Currently his courage grew ; “I’m not afraid of JD Drew,
"C.C,” said Wedge, `Sabathia, Your Game One performance I deplore;
But the fact is I was testing, If after just three days resting,
You’d be finished with digesting, digesting dinner from before,
That I knew not if I should pitch you – would it open up the bullpen door; -
Can I stand it, for Game Four?”

C.C. stood his hat askew, wondering what Wedge would do, taboo,
Of but three days rest risked as never dreamed before,
But the only thought transpired, surely could not be admired,
And as Eric Wedge perspired he thought “C.C. is not hardcore.”
This he thought of, and an echo murmured back the thought, “Not hardcore”
Far too soft for this Game Four.

Back into the clubhouse going, would Borowski saves be blowing?
But old C.C.’s gut was growing
“Has he stamina for more?No way,” he thought
“No way. Who’s that knocking at my office;
Perhaps he has the heart to pitch, to go and win the sum a bitch
If that’s his thumping, he shall pitch; -
Tis not him? He is not hardcore!”

Eric Wedge he turned the knob, and thought he’d see C.C. the slob,
In there stepped a dumpy Byrdman who had pitched 12 years before,
Not the least attention paid he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
When he saw a naked lady, posted on the exit door -
Filthy photograph of Paris just above the exit door -
Stood and stared, and nothing more.

Then this veteran, the fool, from out his mouth began to drool,
And Wedge said, “You got a sinful thing for pictures of this whore.”
“Though your something of a perv,” Wedge said,
“Have you then got the nerve,
Mighty arm and tricky curveball that you need to keep the score -
Tell me can you through five innings zero keep the score?”
Quoth the Byrdman, `I’m Game Four.”

Wedge was quite surprised by the Byrdman’s enterprise
That he would compromise – indeed to let him pitch once more;
For he couldn’t stop agreeing that this sorry human being
That with whom he’s guaranteeing that his team would lose once more
Staring at the naked heiress whom he saw as just a whore
With such claim as “I’m Game Four.”

But the Byrdman , staring horny at the heiress, wasn’t thorny
Wasn’t prickly, but convinced Wedge he should pitch once more.
Byrdman stood his jaw agape – mind on porn on videotape -
Christian Values squish like grape “Games like this you’ve pitched before -
So tonight you’re pitching for me? Just as you have done before?”
Said the Byrdman, “I’m Game Four.”

Startled that he was so cocky, like Apollo facing Rocky,
“Doubtless,” said Wedge, “That in this game you can’t keep down the score,”
Sure, you have thrown well enough, but when the going’s getting tough
Your fastball’s not so fast and you’re curveball’s not backdoor.
So If I should let you pitch, the fans shall me abhor,
That I heed your ‘I’m Game Four’”

But the Byrdman cocky still, like George Foreman pitching a grill
Turned to Wedge’s computer and then quickly typed in “whore”
Then, upon the screen there came, a list of links with some of fame
Flipping from page to page looking for the most hardcore
This fiend, the crazy addict searching for the most hardcore
He looked up “I’m Game Four.”

There Wedge stood in shock, as the Byrdman itched his jock
As he watched the naked ladies dancing on the screen before
Him he looked up from his screen looking strange and rather mean
From his pics that were obscene that would offend Tipper Gore,
But the pics were so obscene that they’d anger Pauly Shore
He declared “I’m Game Four.”

Then, the head of Wedge grew dizzy as he flew into a tizzy,
Driven by the knowledge his control had run right out the door
“Wretch,” Wedge cried, “Thy God hath damned you – you’re a freak and I don’t want you
To pitch – To pitch this season in big games, not any more!
Fastballs, curveballs changeups, no you shan’t pitch any more,”
Quoth the Byrdman, "I’m Game Four."

"Veteran!" said Wedge, Washed up hack –You know that I will take the flack! -When you struggle and you will, if you start this game once more.
For no matter what I do, the games will even two to two
If letting you start is what I do, Please don’t make me I implore
Is there - is there another pitcher? - tell me - tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Byrdman, “I’m Game Four.”

"Veteran!" said Wedge, Washed up hack –You even if they hack
That your pitches will be hammered off the wall or else o’er-
And we cannot score enough, to makeup for your lousy stuff
From an old and tired righty who should not pitch any more.
You’re an old and tired righty who should not pitch any more
Quoth the Byrdman, “I’m Game Four.”

“No that shall not be my choice, hear me Byrdman, hear my voice
Get thee back into the bullpen for you shan’t pitch any more.
Leave no porno as a token of obsession that’s you broken!
me stay rather soft-spoken, for you can’t keep down the score.
Take thy arm from off my team for you can’t pitch any more!”
Quoth the Byrdman, “I’m Game Four.”

And the Byrdman, quite insistent, persistent but inconsistent
On the mound he’s slowly pitching as the Sox run up the score;
Arm is weak and he looks roasted, mind adrift to picture posted,
Of the naked heiress posing above Wedge’s exit door
And the game that Wedge will lose is the battle and the war
So it ends, Game Number Four.

2. You’re name is Paul Gregory Byrd and you are feeling pretty good about life. You are a millionaire; you pitched very well against the Yankees when everyone, save your manager, was calling for you to be benched, and you are a true follower of Christ.

What’s more, you are facing a Red Sox team whose bats have gone into a mysterious slumber.

And yet…

Well, there are issues. For starters there’s your son, a charming lad, who does not respect his old man. He is a charming lad who has told you “'You know, dad, your stuff's not very good.'' And “Why would anyone want your autograph? You’re not any good, you're just average.”

You try to laugh it off, you pass it off to Ken Rosenthal as an amusing anecdote, but it hurts you. It hurts you badly. It is one thing to not have the respect of your teammates, fans, opposing players, clubhouse attendants, grounds crew, parody poets that guy at 7-11, but your son? That one is painful.

And then there’s the porn. You are a good Christian. It defines your life; it is important to you. So why, oh why, do you spend every waking hour wishing you were Hideki Matsui? Free from the cumbersome constraints of God’s law, that pagan bastard is free to not only enjoy pornography in vast quantities but to brag about it. But you? All you feel is shame. When you are away on the road, and let’s be honest, even when you are at home, you can’t wait to open up an adult magazine. It is all you can think about. That’s why you moved to Ohio isn’t it? To be closer to the Cincinnati Headquarters of Hustler magazine. You wish you could have signed with the Reds, but it just didn’t work. This is nothing new. You signed with the Angels in 2005 in the faintest hope that it might wrangle you an invite to the nearby Playboy Mansion. But Hef does not cater to middling veterans, so to Ohio and downscale to Hustler it was.

But the shame is all consuming, and you must make amends. It is not enough for you to punish yourself in private, you must supplicate yourself before the public at large, and since you are not nearly famous enough to apologize on Leno or Letterman, you write a book.

And in that book, you splay out the blackness of your soul for the world to see. You chronicle your shameful struggle with pornography and the thin film of bile it leaves upon your eternal essence.

But then it hits you. Perhaps, this is no contrition at all, but merely a form of exhibitionism. Do you get a thrill from the public humiliation? Or do you enjoy humiliating your wife by sharing your marital sins with the world?

Suddenly, the book seems not like a confession, an antecedent to absolution, but just another cheap thrill for sad little man.

So you look for other ways to be contrite, to purge your sin and your shame. While searching for, yes, more porn, you come across some information on the Carmelite monks, a religious order who beat themselves with whips to show humility before God. Perhaps, there is something to this. So you think about buying a whip so you can humble yourself properly, but you notice that searching for whips on the Internet only leads you deeper into porn, or even worse, parliamentary procedure.

So you abandon the hope of literal self-flagellation and look for a more metaphorical option. And then it hits you. Tonight. You can make amends tonight. You are facing the Boston Red Sox and they are going to whip you, and with the each crack of the bat, each ball over the wall, you will become a little more virtuous, a little more holy.

You are Paul Gregory Byrd and tonight you will cleansed of sin by the Boston Red Sox.

Jose is looking forward to tonight’s game, but to be completely honest, he’s looking more forward to Game 5. That’s because, historically, Game 5 is the one where Kenny Lofton dislocates his shoulder.

For similar reasons, Jose is very optimistic about Tim Wakefield’s start tonight. Red Sox pitchers with blown out pitching shoulders have an excellent postseason history against Cleveland.
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Monday, October 15

ALCS Game 3: Less than Jake

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. By the time we got the rolls the game was over.

The game was not literally over by the time we got our rolls, but the tone had been set and a tone, once set, is nearly impossible to alter.

Game 2 of the ALCS was indeed lost, but it was not lost on the blustery field in the Fenway. It was not lost by Curt Euro, Manny Delcarmen, Javy Lopez or even Eric Gagne. No, it was lost in the far plusher confines of Burton’s Grill on Boylston Street. There, a quorum of Sons of Sam Horn members who were elite enough to secure coveted Game 2 tickets had convened to ingest and imbibe, to add layers of buttery insulation for the long, cold night ahead.

Our waitress, a congenial 20-something, with short black hair a button nose and a voice that was somewhere between a marshmallow dipped in honey and cotton candy laced with sweet but deadly lead acetate, came promptly and took our drink orders. So far so good. But much as Curt Euro’s first snappy curveball marked the high point of his evening, this would mark the high point of ours.

The drinks came out slowly, unevenly, like Doug Mirabelli going down the first base line, but without the groin injuries, but the rolls? Dear God, they took forever. 15 minutes no rolls, 30 minutes, no rolls, 40 minutes… rolls.

When they came they were good, warm and dripping with garlic butter, but it took so, so long for them to get there. And that established the zeitgeist of the evening, things would plod at a painfully slow pace, clearly going poorly. Then there would be a moment of competence, perhaps even excellence, followed, in the end, by bitter disappointment and copious complaint.

The dinner quickly became a metaphor for the game itself. If the slow rolls were Curt’s shaky start, the fact that five meals came out and five others did not would be analogous to his disasterous pitch to Jhonny Peralta. That would make Jose’s smooth buttery rib eye, Manny and Mikey’s back to back homers. (Note: Yes, Jose is trying to mention butter as many times as possible in a single KEY.)

Of course, that was followed by the waitress and manager telling us the other dishes would be out in a few minutes, which was a total lie, and was a lot like Manny D giving the lead away as soon as it was taken. Manny D’s double play ball to end the fifth was his solemn vow of competence, and his walk to start the sixth was his cruel reneging.

Then as it crept painfully close to game time and the remaining dishes still hadn’t come, the manager assured us there was “plenty of time left.” And there was, in the sense that the Red Sox still had plenty of arms in the bullpen after Papelbon completed two innings.

So the dinner and the game were analogous, but they were decidedly not the same. Which was worse? A comparison.

· Managers
Ballgame: Maybe everything that Tito tried didn’t work out, but every decision was defensible.

Burton’s: The Burton’s manager (note: Jose will call her Gidget, to protect her anonymity) lied to us about the problem, then lied some more. Then when she was done with that she lied just a little more. It was like watching a Rick Pitino press conference, but without the snappy suit. Jose would have been happier if she’d just explained the five missing entrees away by stating that not serving them was a “Manager’s Decision.”

Seriously, she was the worst manager in the Fenway not named Grady since Butch Hobson.
Edge: Ballgame


Burton's: Comped us (note: after Jose was a jerk about it) for all the booze and the five missing entrees. Ergo, Jose got a rib eye for $15. He tried to pay more since his food game sort of on time, but the other SoSHers wouldn’t let him.

Ballgame: The Red Sox got none of Eric Gagne’s salary back

Edge: Burton’s

· Kapows
Ballgame: Manny and Mikey crush balls in losing effort.

Burton’s: Actual Sam Horn visits table and says “Kapow.”

Edge: Ballgame

So there you have it, despite not getting any discount for the hideous 11th, the ball game was analogous to the dinner yet slightly better. On the other hand, no one got sick from the food, which is more than Jose can say about the top of the 11th.

2. This would be the part of the KEYS where Jose would typically write a 200 plus line epic poem about the opposing team’s starting pitcher. Unfortunately, Jose has found very few epics with characters named Jake in them. Achilles, Agamemnon, Gilgamesh, Faust, Aeneas, these are the sorts of names that show up in epics. There are precious few Jakes.

No, for Jake we are left with no choices beyond quipping about him carting a python to the mound named Damien and throwing it on Julio Lugo after knocking the shortstop unconscious with a fastball high and tight, or getting all biblical and talking about Jacob’s Ladder.

Since Jake Westbrook is known for being more deceptive than powerful on the mound (note: Jose is pretty sure he has heard about him wearing goatskins on his hands to trick hitters into thinking they are facing his much more formidable Esau Westbrook) the ladder seems like the way to go.

Jacob’s ladder is, of course, the ladder described in the Book of Genesis (28:11-19), which Jacob envisioned in a dream and purportedly led to heaven.

While this ladder is said to be in Bethel, named for the former Patriot’s receiver and now in the area of the Palestinian town of Beitin, modern archeologists have failed to locate the ladder.

Jose’s been thinking about it, and he thinks it’s one of those “hidden in plain sight” deals. So he is pretty sure that Jacob’s ladder is the ladder on the Green Monster at Fenway. It makes perfect sense. The ladder used to serve a clear purpose, getting atop the Monster to collect balls hit into the screen, but now that there are seats there, what purpose does it serve? None. None, except climbing to heaven, that is.

You just watch, when Jake is getting shelled tonight he is going to flee and climb up that ladder away from menacing sluggers and into heaven’s warm embrace. Then we will be sorry.

Wait, the game’s in Cleveland? Never mind, he’s screwed.

3. In today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer, still the coolest newspaper name in America, the big story seem to be not what the Indians will do this evening, but what the midges will do.

In addition to an article interviewing scientists at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (note: apparently they have museums now in Cleveland) about the prospect of a return of the insects, the Plain Dealer also offers a cutout midge mask that fans can wear to the stadium. While the prospect of 40,000 people wearing midge masks is certainly more appealing that the prospect of having to gaze on the visages of 40,000 actual Clevelanders, Jose wonders if Cleveland isn’t relying a little too heavily on insect infestation? Sure, a swarm of tiny winged insects is more effective at closing games than Joe Borowski, but is that really where a fan wants to place his confidence?

The case for renewed DDT use?

For starters, Mr. Matsu is unlikely to be bothered by midges. Jose has been in Japan when they have cicadas and based on that knowledge, he suspects that any insect shorter than two inches long and quieter than 120 decibels is unlikely to disturb the Japanese righty. Similarly, Jonathon Papelbon is from the freaking bayou, he can handle his insects, and if not, the beer case over his head will protect him. Second, Julian Tavarez seems like the sort of guy who would eat a whole plate of the things if you dared him to (note: please someone dare him to). Third, when Tim Wakefield pitches tomorrow night, his knuckleball will be completely camouflaged by the slow moving, fluttering insects. How will they know if their swinging at a ball or a midge? They can’t it’s impossible.

So please good people of Cleveland, rely on your insects, but remember relying on insects to win ballgames is like relying on Ant-Man to foil a crime. It’s better than nothing, but just as Batman is better than Ant-man, bats are far better guarantees of victory than bugs.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.